It’s Roberto Thaime

21 Apr

Bangkok

The plan was simply enough on paper, but as always when travelling through foreign lands, not everything is going to work as expected (and with hindsight this was going to be a referring theme). Rob was flying over to visit me in Bangkok to spend a couple of weeks exploring thailand.

We had booked the Berkeley Hotel, a 5 star venue with a roof-top pool, which we got for a good deal. We were both going to be arriving tired; I was coming straight from work at the end of a busy week and Rob was due to arrive after a gruelling 23-hour journey. My trip was slightly more stressful than expected, I hit busy traffic coming into bangkok and crawled into Mo-chit bus terminal much later than expected. I then had the usual palaver of getting from Mo-chit to my hotel. As always I was harassed by taxi drivers as I came off the bus. To my surprise only one of them knew where the Berkeley Hotel was and he wanted 900 Baht to take me. Considering you can travel from the very North of Thailand to the South islands for this price, he was definitely trying to rip me off. I had to resort to plan B, which was to find some internet and alternative transportation.

In the end this involved a motorbike taxi through rush hour traffic, a sky train and another taxi at the other end (this time on the meter). I eventually arrived; hungry, tired and expecting to find Rob relaxing upstairs with a bottle of Leo. Not quite. It turned out that he had not arrived, and was officially ‘lost in Bangkok’. It turns out that he his first flight had been delayed by a sand-storm, and he had almost missed his connecting flight. He had lost his luggage and had been forced to find his own way to the hotel after the airport transfer hadn’t materialised. Just to top it off he’d racked up a tasty £70 data-roaming fee and contracted a violent case of diarrhoea (quite an impressive start). By the time he eventually got to the room I’d had time to freshen up and met a friend of mine, a local girl from Bangkok called May. By the time he arrived, May and I were ‘heaw mak’ (hank marving), and so we decided to head out for some food.

We had BBQ pork, fried morning glory and Khao pad (rice with vegetables, egg and spices). The next day I woke up to see a now all-to-familiar sight; Rob running naked to the bathroom with a look of panic in his eyes. It’s not a good way for either of us to start the day. We decided we would play it safe and get some breakfast in the hotel before spending the morning relaxing by the pool. The weather was hot, reaching mid-to-high 30’s. The plan for the afternoon was to find a good market, visit a temple and then finish off at the world famous Khaosan Road for dinner and drinks.

The market was pretty disappointing, we let the Tuk Tuk driver take us to one he recommended but it just seemed to be a few stalls set up at the side of the road. What’s more, he made us stop in a suit shop on-route. This is a pretty common tactic here, waiting until you have customers in your tuk-tuk or taxi before forcing them to stop along the way. The shop pays for the drivers’ petrol in order to get as many potential sales as possible. This is not the first time this has happened to me and incredibly it was the same shop that I’d been to a few years earlier! So we found ourselves looking at suits against our will, while a slimy salesman said ‘lovely-jubbly’, asked if we were cockney, and called Rob ‘Del-boy’.

The afternoon was more successful; we checked out Wat Pho Temple; the home of the impressive reclining Buddha. It was actually the first temple I’d properly visited since I’ve been here, and it felt good to cross it off the list of things to do. We ambled round the temple grounds, admiring the incredible architecture and pretending we were cultured. We grabbed some souvenirs, before speeding back to the hotel in Fernando Alonso’s Tuk Tuk. That evening we did head out to Khaosan, but not to join in the carnage this time. Rob was still suffering and so we just ate dinner and mooched around the local area. I wasn’t too bothered, I’m not a big fan of Khaosan Road anyway, and although it would of been fun to have some ‘super-strong cocktails’, at least we’d seen it first hand.

This morning we are travelling to Koh Chang, which translates as ‘elephant island’ (no idea why). Although I have never been there before I have heard it is a beautiful mixture of white, sandy beaches and mountainous rainforest.

(pictures to come)

Koh Chang

The journey to koh Chang went much better than expected. We were travelling in a minibus with no toilet which was risky business with Rob’s serious bottom issues. However, the six hour drive went without a hitch (or a trip to a ditch). There was just one other passenger on our bus, a girl named Pam who worked in a hotel on the island, and seemed nice to chat to.

The first leg of the journey was to the pier in the town of Trat, where we took the hour long ferry to the island. From a distance the island looked impressive. It was bigger than I’d expected, and very mountainous. It was also very green, covered entirely in rainforest.

Once on the island we had to decide where to go as we had no accommodation booked and the sun was already hanging low in the sky. I had read that Lonely Beach is one of the busier parts of the island and popular with backpackers so we jumped in a taxi and set off. The roads were crazy; winding up and down the steep peaks along the coast, with beautiful views out to sea. During the taxi ride, somebody joked that Pam could be my girlfriend, to which she replied that I wouldn’t like her. I thought she was being a bit hard on herself until she explained that she was a lady boy! This took us all by surprise and created a long, awkward but very funny silence. We arrived at Lonely Beach and quickly got offered a couple of rooms. We weren’t impressed with any of them but wanted to dump our bags, so we checked in for 1 night at Seaflower Bungalows.

The following day we rented some motorbikes, found a new bungalow on the South of the island and decided to go kayaking. We were soon paddling away in the searing heat, aiming for an uninhabited islet about a mile away from the mainland. We got to the island and relaxed on the beach before heading back in search of water. The weather was seriously hot! We took the long way back, going around the island to view it from the other side. The water here was not so sheltered and got pretty choppy, at one point we came so close to capsizing!

The next day and we woke up early for a ‘4 island snorkeling tour’. The weather was perfect again, scorching hot and no wind. On the way to the first island we got talking to two of the nicest people I’ve ever met; 27 year old Giulia from Italy and 54 year old Anna from Brazil. They’d met just a couple of days ago and seemed to have become close friends. They were such interesting, positive people and a joy to be with.The snorkeling itself was pretty good. There wasn’t a huge diversity of fish, but a decent number and some impressive corals. Annoyingly, i’d forgotten to bring my underwater camera with me, so we couldn’t get any photos this time.

That evening we arranged to meet up with Anna and Giulia. It was Giulia’s birthday so we wanted to join them for dinner and some celebratory drinks. We ended up in a VERY relaxed bar (Koh Changs speciality), run by some Thai Rastafarians. The owner loved to play his guitar and invited anyone who wanted to come up to play/sing with him. Apperantly he sometimes tours with Linkin Park (although this could be completely fabricated). Giulia was a very good singer, but the songs were slightly ruined by mine and Robs performances on he bongos and the tambourine.

On our final day we checked out one of the islands waterfalls. It’s nearing the end of dry season here and so there was no torrent of angry water. But it was still a nice place to visit and have a swim in the pool below. We also met some fellow foreign teachers, a group of girls from America and arranged to go for drinks.

Later that evening rob and I ended up popping into a bar for a pre-dinner beer. We got chatting to the owner, a Thai lady called ‘New’ who was, quite simply, an amazing host. She set about helping us book our trip, giving us advice, playing us at pool and even trying to get me to marry her daughter. When we said we had to leave to get food she went and arranged for the restaurant down the road to bring us our food so we could stay in the bar! The American girls came to meet us a little later and we enjoyed talking about our Thailand experiences and our plans for Song Kran. Next stop is one night in the madness which is Pattaya before stopping in Korat and heading up to Chang Mai for the festivities. As I am writing this we are driving through a huge storm with lightning going off around us. Pretty extreme weather!

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